L-type calcium channels (Cav1) represent one of the three major classes (Cav1–3) of voltage-gated calcium channels. They were identified as the target of clinically used calcium channel blockers (CCBs; so-called calcium antagonists) and were the first class accessible to biochemical characterization. Four of the 10 known α1 subunits (Cav1.1–Cav1.4) form the pore of L-type calcium channels (LTCCs) and contain the high-affinity drug-binding sites for dihydropyridines and other chemical classes of organic CCBs. In essentially all electrically excitable cells one or more of these LTCC isoforms is expressed, and therefore it is not surprising that many body functions including muscle, brain, endocrine, and sensory function depend on proper LTCC activity. Gene knockouts and inherited human diseases have allowed detailed insight into the physiological and pathophysiological role of these channels. Genome-wide association studies and analysis of human genomes are currently providing even more hints that even small changes of channel expression or activity may be associated with disease, such as psychiatric disease or cardiac arrhythmias. Therefore, it is important to understand the structure–function relationship of LTCC isoforms, their differential contribution to physiological function, as well as their fine-tuning by modulatory cellular processes.
JournaltitleWiley interdisciplinary reviews. Membrane transport and signaling